Fair use is an important component to U.S. copyright law that empowers individuals to make use of copyrighted materials without asking or paying for permission for certain socially useful purposes, such as scholarship, research, and education. It should come as no surprise that libraries, being heavily involved in such endeavors, often rely on fair use to accomplish many day-to-day activities in support of teaching, learning, and research.
Unfortunately, misunderstandings and uncertainty about copyright and fair use may prompt librarians and administrators to avoid some projects or limit services that could otherwise qualify as fair use. Librarians are not the only ones to find themselves in this predicament, but the good news is that community-specific best practices help dispel fair use myths and provide guidance within a particular discipline.
The Association of Research Libraries (ARL), in partnership with the Center for Social Media and the Washington College of Law at American University, has developed several resources to help librarians and library administrators understand and apply fair use as it pertains to academic and research libraries:
- The Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries affirms the relevance of fair use to specific library activities and explores the scope of fair use in various contexts.
- The Fair Use FAQ for Librarians/General Overview addresses common questions and misconceptions regarding copyright and libraries, where fair use fits in relation to the other copyright exceptions for libraries, and how the code of best practices can help institutions develop policies on fair use.
- The Good News About Library Fair Use infographic communicates the importance of fair use for library services and introduces the code of best practices in a quick, easy to digest format.
Lastly, no fair use toolkit is complete without a checklist to help analyze the four factors of fair use:
- Interactive Fair Use Checklist from the OSU Health Sciences Library
- Printable Fair Use Checklist from Columbia University Libraries
- Fair Use Evaluator from the American Library Association
- Thinking Through Fair Use worksheet from the University of Minnesota Libraries
By Jessica Meindertsma, Rights Management Specialist at The Ohio State University Libraries’ Copyright Resources Center